The services and benefits delivered by the federal government have a positive, in some cases, lifesaving, impact on the daily lives of virtually every American. Yet many citizens have concerns about engaging with federal agencies. In a Pew Research Center survey, Americans admitted that this lack of trust has become a real barrier to solving issues.
As part of an ACT–IAC Steering Committee on Presidential Transition, we contributed to Delivering Outcomes, Building Trust – a new paper that explores that important question. In it, we attempt to answer the question - how can we improve Americans’ trust in government?
Having spent decades working in and with the federal government, we’re familiar with the longstanding challenges – from siloed services and systems to duplicate structures and funding – that the paper analyzes. We are excited to see so much optimism, enthusiasm, and fresh thinking put toward addressing these challenges.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play a role in accelerating and scaling new ways for government to support operations and deliver services. For example, the surge in remote visits within the Veterans Health Administration has shown us just how quickly and effectively federal organizations can pivot – and how receptive customers are to such innovations. These necessary adaptions due to the pandemic have allowed a leapfrogging of traditional barriers to change – but that pace of change could be made more permanent.
So, how can we scale and accelerate innovations to strengthen trust in government? Delivering Outcomes, Building Trust offers some recommendations for government leaders, Congress, and those who advise them. The recommendations reflect the need to prioritize people – not technology – in implementing new operating models. They also affirm the critical role of data in delivering services, managing programs, and solving problems. We summarize some of the recommendations below:
Build outcome focus into management at all levels
Demonstrating outcomes is critical to increasing government trust and accountability.
Given the focus on compliance and regulations within government, it can be easy to fall into a rules instead of results mindset. The paper recommends building outcome focus into management at all levels to ensure that government organizations focus on delivering what their customers want and need.
Outcomes should reflect what customers (externally and internally) care about; they should represent the sum of their experience and service delivered to them. By clearly defining desired outcomes, it becomes possible to track, quantify, and report on the results being delivered – and to better enable and sustain them.
We strongly support the paper’s suggestion of using Outcome Leaders from inside or outside government to spark and nurture the ongoing campaign to focus on results. They would be responsible for infusing an outcome focus throughout the organization, bringing experience and expertise in performance measurement. Their perspective will help reshape organizational culture and advance the agency’s ability to interpret and share data related to outcomes.
Create a government-wide acceleration and change strategy
In line with an outcome focus, the paper also recommends a renewed emphasis on driving transformation and modernization in government through strategic metrics. You have to understand what you’re trying to change and why through a purposeful vision and strategy. For example, we’ve seen this impact in the steady improvement of FITARA scores.
As such, the paper recommends government incorporate measurements and milestones into all roles and at all levels directed toward promoting acceleration and change.
We see the strategy not as one single North Star across federal government, given different agencies’ needs and focuses; rather, it should be a galaxy of North Stars aligned with the overall direction the government wants to go.
Ultimately, this recommendation is about aligning workforce with operational improvements. To collaborate on the strategy, government must break down silos across programs and within agencies that cause fragmentation in how people engage with government services. The paper recommends the President’s Management Council as the best driver of this strategy.
Establish a new workforce and leadership model for the digital workforce
ACT–IAC’s mission speaks to the value of richer collaboration between government and industry. That same spirit should apply to talent, as those with multi-sector experience will be better able to serve both government and industry. We foresee a new approach to leadership in government in which there is much greater movement among agencies and between the public and private sectors. These kinds of rotational opportunities will enable government to attract talent, develop and share skills, and respond more rapidly as innovations emerge. Ultimately, better leadership drives better outcomes and greater trust.
To read more about these and the other recommendations, we invite you to review the complete paper. Also, stay tuned as ACT–IAC publishes more detailed papers on the recommended actions in three key areas: Improving Customer Experience; Infrastructure and Resilience; Agility in Government.